Congratulations, Class of 2015! Nobles Celebrates 149th Graduation

Seventeenth-century poet Anne Bradstreet declared, “If we had no winter, the spring would not be so pleasant; if we did not sometimes taste of adversity, prosperity would not be so welcome.” Most New Englanders can relate and, on May 29—closing an academic year marked by a barrage of blizzards and a slow-coming spring—Noble and Greenough School graduated 124 members of the Class of 2015 under sunny skies.  Very pleasant, indeed, Ms. Bradstreet.

The morning celebrations included awards and the granting of diplomas to a class characterized by its kindness, extraordinary work ethic and resilience in response to loss and difficulty. Speakers shared thoughts on change, challenge and intentionality.

Student Life Council co-presidents Joelle Sherman and Dana Grey were among the first to address the audience. Sherman reflected on her friendship with Grey, peers and faculty members. “You’ve helped me start to figure out who I am and who I want to be. I cannot imagine a greater gift,” she said of her teachers.

Sherman likes, she said, to mark time with “firsts”—and she recounted “firsts” including the first time she sat on “the beach,” the first time her class heard the bell and the traditional “faculty, first class” as assembly was dismissed, and the first (but not last) time she cried in front of a teacher.

Grey talked about learning of his mother’s breast cancer and seeing her post-surgery at Beth Israel Hospital exactly one year ago. His mom, he said, had been his rock for 17 years. And her vulnerabiliy coincided with his hardest-ever semester in school. “But this community and the people in it gave me incredible support and love to help me deal with my situation.”

Grey also said that he repeatedly called upon the humor and strength of his mother’s repetition of the NASA Apollo 13 ground control commander: “With all due respect, sir, I think this is going to be our finest hour.”

Head of School Bob Henderson announced the awards that were accepted by students the previous evening. He also recognized seniors who earned distinction, high distinction and highest distinction.

In addressing the Class of 2015, Henderson said, “Allow me to share a hyperbolic example of the evolution of education over the last half century.”

He proceeded to outline the evolution of a story problem, which originated in a 1965 math text. He illustrated the progression of the basic concept through pedagogical fads and cultural trends—including a 1980s dumbed-down version that might sound shockingly authentic to students of the era. (The full evolution is too long to share here—but very funny. Read it in the full version of Henderson’s remarks.)

Citing the futility and counter-productivity of embracing trends thoughtlessly, Henderson asserted that what really matters in good schools is that expectations are consistently high and relationships are central.

“I assert that what matters most is what has always mattered most. Learning best occurs in an environment where the expectations are uniformly very high in terms of both achievement and behavior. More importantly, learning flourishes when those standards are set by adults of inspirational intellect, admirable character, unflagging dedication and intuitive empathy. And, of course, those same adults must be able to connect with kids, be able to laugh and revel in their company, while never forgetting the degree to which they serve as role models of balance, engagement and success in life.

“Such adults create schools that are fundamentally joyous places. Not joyous every minute of every day, because getting through high school is tough, requires hard work, and there are inescapable disappointments. But today, at the end of the road, it is my hope that this senior class can feel the essential joy of having grown up here, under the care of this remarkable faculty.”

Before introducing faculty speaker, John Chung, Henderson also bestowed the Vernon Greene Award for excellence in teaching to science teacher Dominic Manzo, who teaches robotics, engineering and physics.

“One of his kids said to me that he is a ‘stealth’ teacher: You learn way more than you think you are because you have such a good time doing it,” Henderson said. “Class is about storytelling, and personal connections, and joyful exploration. Relentlessly curious, with an eclectic intellect, he seems to be interested in all the things the person he is talking to is interested in. Mr. Manzo, one of his former students said, is the sort of person who can have an animated conversation with a rock, and the rock will feel good about it.”

Faculty speaker Chung, a member of the math and science departments, recalled how quickly the concluding school year has gone—in part, he quipped, because he had a first-class concussion, earned by poor timing passing a Nobles athletic field.

After serial math jokes—teachers can’t resist math jokes?—Chung turned serious and invited student to contemplate personal mission statements. “Just as the school has a mission statement that drives its decisions, people need individual mission statements that provide a set of defining principles. While the value of the question may be obvious, answering it eloquently is a daunting task that requires genuine contemplation and reflection."

Genesis De Los Santos and Nick Jaczko were selected by their peers to speak on the dais. De Los Santos spoke of her nearly paralyzing fear when she entered the Nobles community, unsure how much of her real self and life to reveal. She recalled connecting with Kate Burr, who is late-afternoon receptionist, postage expert and student sounding board.

“In many ways, I was afraid of Nobles because I was afraid I had to hide who I was,” said De Los Santos. She said one of the pivotal moments might have been when she shared with the community that her parents work extraordinarily hard as hotel maid and janitor—or it might have been the time when Burr said to De Los Santos: “You are a firecracker.”

“You [classmates] helped me free my voice—and, boy, is it loud!”

Jaczko said that he and a classmate went sailing with nearly disastrous results. The boat was filling with water from the Charles River, he said. “It’s kind of like graduation.”

He elaborated, explained that when the boat is spinning, one finds oneself in that strange and intriguing in-between place.

The ceremony included additional awards such as the Head of School Prize, Miller Medal and Gleason Award, which went to new graduates Ian Katz, and Micaela Dickinson and Jordan Sandford, respectively. Longtime trustee and Nobles parent Ernie Parizeau was awarded the George F. Fiske Award for a non-graduate of the school who has given extraordinary service. The honor in includes an honorary degree, which results in Parizeau and his son Sam Parizeau, both becoming members of the Class of 2015.

After accepting their diplomas, the graduates greeted and thanked faculty and family members. The final musical performance, after a week filled with many memorable performances, was the First Class Ensemble with “You Are Not Alone” by R. Kelly and Michael Jackson and arranged by faculty member Michael Turner.


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Congratulations, Class of 2015!